The Hype About Happiness

The Hype About Happiness

Happiness is …….well, whatever makes you happy, but it’s generally defined as frequently experiencing positive emotions such as joy, interest, and pride and not often experiencing negative emotions like sadness and fear. Happy people do get scared and fearful and angry; they just don’t do it as often as others.  Studies have shown that happiness has some pretty powerful effects on people’s lives, including making those lives longer and healthier. People who are happy also have better marriages, more friends, and are more generous towards others.

How can you be happier and enjoy all these great benefits? Well, just last year, scientists located what they believe are some of the genetic bases for happiness. So at least some of happiness is controlled by your genetics—some say up to 50%.  But other researchers think at least 40% of our happiness is directly under our control (the rest is due to life circumstances).

What can you do to increase your feelings of happiness? Here are some tips:

  • Don’t worry as much about what other people think. There is evidence that people experience fewer negative feelings as they become older. That might be because they care less about what other people think, according to an article in TIME. Comparing yourself to others can highlight what you don’t have or can make you feel unsure about yourself. If you don’t worry about what others have or think, you can be happy with what you DO have.
  • Spend time with people you enjoy. Engaging with people who make you laugh and smile will increase your positive feelings. In fact, just smiling more often can increase happiness.
  • Find a hobby. Spending time engaged in activities that you enjoy will boost your positive feelings and decrease those happiness-busting feelings, like stress. This can be something that you do with others or an activity that you do on your own. The point is to find something that keeps your interest and gives you a sense of accomplishment–both feelings add to happiness.
  • Exercise. We have all heard that exercise lowers stress and boosts feelings of well-being. It’s true!
  • Share your money, expertise, or time with someone who needs them. It may seem strange that giving something of yours away can add to happiness, but altruism can make you feel better. And that increases the likelihood that you will give more. So everyone benefits!

For more suggestions on how to get happy, check out this list. And remember, even though genes may have some influence on your feelings, a lot of your happiness is within your control!



What’s your definition of happiness? Psychology Today.

The link between happiness and health. Very Well.

What’s so great about happiness? Happify Daily.

First happiness genes have been located. Science Daily.

10 Ways to be Happier. RealSimple.

Image: © Cjorgens |


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Katherine Pears
Dr. Katherine Pears is a senior scientist at Oregon Social Learning Center (OSLC). She earned her Ph.D in clinical psychology and has worked with OSLC since 1998. Katherine is the principal investigator and co-developer of the Kids In Transition to Schools (KITS) program. Currently, she oversees all the clinical and research activities for KITS. When she’s not in her office, you’ll find Katherine in the kitchen whipping up her latest creation or outdoors hiking a scenic trail.


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